General News of Saturday, 28 January 2017
After an intensive engagement for consensus building with members of the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in parliament – who were very determined to torpedo the approval of Senior Minister-designate, Yaw Osafo-Maafo and Minister-designate for Energy, Boakye Agyarko – the two, together with others, were yesterday approved.
The two nominees were summoned to the house but their approval travelled late into the evening when the minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu, and other members from his side, contributing to the debate on the motion to approve the nominees, strongly objected to the idea because of certain ‘serious’ statements they were said to have made before the Appointments Committee.
The two were among five nominees who were to be approved yesterday.
Eventually, they were let to go, leading to their swearing-in by President Akufo-Addo later in the evening.
The president swore in 12 ministers, except Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, who was out of the country for official AU engagements in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The other three approved without any problems were Minister-designate for Education, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh; Minister-designate for Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu and Minister-designate for Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto.
The argument of the minority for opposing the approval of the two nominees was that Mr Osafo-Maafo did not tell the committee the truth with regard to the alleged ethnocentric comments that he made in the Eastern Region to the effect that only people from the five resource-rich regions should be made to become presidents.
In addition, the minority also argued that the CNCTI loan which he (Osafo-Maafo) said was abrogated under his tenure as Minister of Finance (during President Kufuor’s rule) was not a true reflection of things since according to the minority, their checks from records in parliament did not show that.
They also said that Minister-designate for Energy, Boakye Agyarko, had made a categorical statement before the committee that former President John Mahama was corrupt because he superintended over sole-sourcing of the Floating Storage and Re-Gasification Unit and was also said not to have provided the accurate figure on the debts of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).
In the course of the heated debate as to whether or not to approve the two nominees whose vetting had come under scrutiny, news starting spreading on the various media networks that a member of the Appointments Committee, Mahama Ayariga, had revealed to Radio Gold – a pro-NDC radio station in Accra – that the Minister-designate for Energy had attempted to bribe them with GH¢3,000 each but the chairman of the committee later told the House that it (committee) would respond appropriately to the allegation.
Chairman of the Committee, Joe Osei-Wusu, denied playing any role in the alleged bribery, vowing to take up the matter at the appropriate quarters.
Mahama Ayariga was said to have withdrawn the bribery allegation.
According to parliamentary sources, Ayariga said he made the claim to “level the playing field” because the nominee had impugned the reputation of former President John Mahama.
The Defence Minister-designate, Dominic Nitiwul, was very forceful in defending the two nominees, saying that those allegations against them were not accurate.
He said that the majority New Patriotic Party wanted a consensus building that was why the approval of the two was deferred to yesterday.
He said the majority has a huge numerical advantage and could have gone ahead and voted on the approval, but because parliament thrives on consensus building, they waited for more consultations and consensus building.
“We have done all that we need to do in terms of consensus building and that if the minority wants to become impediment in forming our government then we can easily use our vast majority to approve the nominees,” he said.
The majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, continued the path of consensus building and invited the leadership of both sides and also the leadership of the Appointments Committee to meet with the two nominees in the lobby of the speaker to resolve the issues amicably.
After reaching a consensus the leadership returned and Haruna Iddrisu told the House that after a lengthy consultation, the Minister-designate decided to withdraw his statement of ‘corruption’ against the former president and also said that since he was a new person going into the ministry, figures given about the debt of ECG might not exactly be accurate and that he was aware that the total debt of ECG was GH¢2 billion instead of the GH¢800 million he mentioned to the committee.
The minority leader also said the Minister-designate for Energy agreed that the GH¢800 million debt was rather government indebtedness to ECG.
He also indicated that the Senior Minister-designate expressed regret over any such comment and that it was not his nature to stoke ethnocentrism in the country.
He said based on that the leadership of the minority accepted the explanations and therefore relaxed their stand for the two to be approved by parliament.
He expressed the hope that after being approved they would discharge their duties as true Ministers of State and not on partisan lines.
The speaker, Prof Mike Oquaye, thanked the leadership for showing such maturity